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Zoom F6 - game changer?

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12 hours ago, IronFilm said:

You should still try to budget for what is half the film..... sound! 

As after all, good quality sound is waaaaaaay more than just the dynamic range. Just like a good looking film depends on waaaay more than just dynamic range of the camera itself, you also need: the skill of the camera operator, lighting, the location, etc etc

It's mostly corporate work, where the client goes full-on cheap. I'd never underestimate sound. 😃 

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9 hours ago, IronFilm said:

Which is why I was saying under extremely extreme scenarios the only "gotcha" you likely need to then worry about is the max SPL of the mic, but if you're worrying about the SPL rating of your mic then you've playing in some very rarefied exotic circumstances here when it comes to doing sound effects recordings! Not a problem people need to ever usually worry about. (for example: I'm a professional sound recordist and in the last few years I've never come across a scenario in which the max SPL of my mic was a problem for me, you really need to be some kind of specialist SFX recordist for this to be a big concern for you)

Well, holy sh*t, if the DR and self-noise of a mic preamp is sufficient for recording everything you've come across then I guess it might actually work.  What mic do you use?  I'm curious about the SNR.  

I thought the world was a much more dynamic place...  you know, with orchestras being so loud they are a health and safety hazard and all that stuff.  It makes me wonder why equipment that has a safety track only drops it by 20db - which as a person that doesn't adjust levels because I'm thinking about too many other things I routinely find isn't enough latitude and you clip both tracks.  I figured that audio techs had to use attenuators at various points in the signal path to keep levels within range.

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5 hours ago, kye said:

Well, holy sh*t, if the DR and self-noise of a mic preamp is sufficient for recording everything you've come across then I guess it might actually work.  What mic do you use?  I'm curious about the SNR.  

I feel like through this conversation you've been getting confused by various terms / points / aspects. 

I'll try to clear up a few things:

Mic self noise is not the same as mic pre amp self noise. 

The inherent self noise from either a mic or a pre amp is going to be the same when a person is whispering or shouting, BUT when a person whispers we're going to crank the gain up. Thus we're hearing  more of the self noise due to the gain being cranked up.  (the reverse is of course true when a person shouts, and you hear relatively less noise)

This does NOT mean there is inherently more self noise in a system when a person is whispering, because of course what an actor does (be him/her shouting or whispering!) has no impact whatsoever over the electronics. It is what the sound mixer does which matters.

The Zoom F6 is proposing that all these operations can be done in post, and you the operator doesn't need to touch the F6 at all. 

Thus it logically follows if your recorder is already good enough to record someone whispering or someone shouting (which the F4/F8 can easily do with even moderately good technique) then the F6 can do it without you needing to actively babysit the F6. Or so Zoom is claiming, and when you think through it like I have just done here explaining it to you, then you can see this isn't a totally unreasonable claim to make. And I'm looking forward to the reviews to see if they've pulled it off in all the details, if I was a betting man I'd say yes.  

The problems / exceptions to this only arise in scenarios when even if you're actively running your recorder then you still can't record the sound, which would be truly extreme examples like a flea farting or a space shuttle taking off. 

Again, look at camera examples if it helps you understand it:

Realistically speaking if you're filming in a tunnel or a outdoors in summer, then they don't change what is inherently noisy in the image. But rather it is you as the camera operator who is responding to your external surroundings which leads to that noise seen. When in the tunnel you choose 12,800 ISO which makes the image noisy. But being in the tunnel itself doesn't mean the image is noisy. It was you choosing that ISO which made it noisy. Ok, I'm probably sounding weirdly philosophical at the moment, but maybe you're catching my drift?

Imagine you could record ISO 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / 3200 / 6400 / 12800 / 25600 all at once?? Then you can choose which ISO you want in post. Thus like the F6 you wouldn't need to set your gain while shooting. And the end result would be just as good as if you had selected the right ISO on the day. (of course at any extreme, like filming on the surface of the sun, TOO BRIGHT, or filming next to a black hole, TOO DARK, then you'll have problems)

This is kinda why some people have compared the F6 to doing "raw audio"

 

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5 hours ago, kye said:

I thought the world was a much more dynamic place...  you know, with orchestras being so loud they are a health and safety hazard and all that stuff.


To give a couple of examples:
My Sanken CS3e has a max SPL of 120
My Sennheiser MKH60 has a max SPL or 134

Both of these figures OHSA recommends you spend zero minutes exposed to.

You can see why I say that practically speaking I never come across scenarios extreme enough my gear can't handle that. 

Sure, it does happen for some people, but you're talking about rarefied air here of specialist SFX recordists. 

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18 minutes ago, IronFilm said:

I feel like through this conversation you've been getting confused by various terms / points / aspects. 

I'll try to clear up a few things:

Mic self noise is not the same as mic pre amp self noise. 

The inherent self noise from either a mic or a pre amp is going to be the same when a person is whispering or shouting, BUT when a person whispers we're going to crank the gain up. Thus we're hearing  more of the self noise due to the gain being cranked up.  (the reverse is of course true when a person shouts, and you hear relatively less noise)

This does NOT mean there is inherently more self noise in a system when a person is whispering, because of course what an actor does (be him/her shouting or whispering!) has no impact whatsoever over the electronics. It is what the sound mixer does which matters.

The Zoom F6 is proposing that all these operations can be done in post, and you the operator doesn't need to touch the F6 at all. 

Thus it logically follows if your recorder is already good enough to record someone whispering or someone shouting (which the F4/F8 can easily do with even moderately good technique) then the F6 can do it without you needing to actively babysit the F6. Or so Zoom is claiming, and when you think through it like I have just done here explaining it to you, then you can see this isn't a totally unreasonable claim to make. And I'm looking forward to the reviews to see if they've pulled it off in all the details, if I was a betting man I'd say yes.  

The problems / exceptions to this only arise in scenarios when even if you're actively running your recorder then you still can't record the sound, which would be truly extreme examples like a flea farting or a space shuttle taking off. 

Again, look at camera examples if it helps you understand it:

Realistically speaking if you're filming in a tunnel or a outdoors in summer, then they don't change what is inherently noisy in the image. But rather it is you as the camera operator who is responding to your external surroundings which leads to that noise seen. When in the tunnel you choose 12,800 ISO which makes the image noisy. But being in the tunnel itself doesn't mean the image is noisy. It was you choosing that ISO which made it noisy. Ok, I'm probably sounding weirdly philosophical at the moment, but maybe you're catching my drift?

Imagine you could record ISO 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / 3200 / 6400 / 12800 / 25600 all at once?? Then you can choose which ISO you want in post. Thus like the F6 you wouldn't need to set your gain while shooting. And the end result would be just as good as if you had selected the right ISO on the day. (of course at any extreme, like filming on the surface of the sun, TOO BRIGHT, or filming next to a black hole, TOO DARK, then you'll have problems)

This is kinda why some people have compared the F6 to doing "raw audio"

 

I hadn't originally considered that the mic capsule and maybe mic circuitry exist prior to any attenuation, so that might be the missing piece.  

I see a couple of different signal paths..  

Setup #1:

  • "microphone" (which is a microphone capsule, feeding into an internal amplifier circuit of some kind)
    v
  • Zoom F6 (which is likely to be an adjustable resistor -> the rest of the circuitry)

Setup #2:

  • "microphone" (which is a microphone capsule, feeding into an internal amplifier circuit of some kind)
    v
  • "mic preamp" (which is likely to be: an adjustable resistor -> fixed gain circuit -> adjustable resistor -> fixed gain circuit)
    v
  • Zoom F6 (which is likely to be an adjustable resistor -> the rest of the circuitry)

If we assume that we adjust all the controls so that the microphone capsule on the edge of clipping physically aligns with every fixed gain circuit on the edge of clipping electronically, and we call this 0db, and we assume that every gain circuit has a self-noise figure of -100dB.  Then we assume that we put the microphone near something very loud, and let's imagine that it has 15dB of head room above the average level, and we record, then we'll get noise in the recording at 85dB below our loud sound, which is a SNR of 85dB.  Now we take that setup and go inside to record something very quiet, which is 80dB below the loud thing.  The loud thing was averaging -15dB, so that means this thing averages -95dB.  Our self-noise is still at -100dB, but that means that we only have a SNR of 5dB.  

Its an extreme example, but so is having 5dB SNR, so I think it remains relevant even if the difference in volume is less.

Did I mess up the math?

If that's the case, then it won't matter if the F6 is clean down to -200dB, the noise from the active circuitry in the microphone (which we know is there because it requires phantom power) will already be mixed into the signal before it gets to the F6.

Microphone capsules are a passive transducer that are used the exact opposite way to a loudspeaker (which incidentally is why you can use headphones as a microphone) and therefore have no noise floor or self-noise, so the only setup where the F6 is the only active device and you plug a passive microphone straight into the F6.  Then your recording will only be limited by the clipping of the microphone capsule and the F6s internal components.

The camera analogy isn't a good one because in a camera the sensor is the first electronic component, whereas in an audio setup the recorder is likely preceded by multiple other electronic circuits that have their own limitations independent to the recorder.

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23 minutes ago, IronFilm said:


To give a couple of examples:
My Sanken CS3e has a max SPL of 120
My Sennheiser MKH60 has a max SPL or 134

Both of these figures OHSA recommends you spend zero minutes exposed to.

You can see why I say that practically speaking I never come across scenarios extreme enough my gear can't handle that. 

Sure, it does happen for some people, but you're talking about rarefied air here of specialist SFX recordists. 

Both my Sennheiser 416 and Audix SCX1-C have 130dB SPL and I do not usually have any issues, but I had 3 occasions this year when using other mics (production companies equipment)

1) Boxing match with a lot of extras on a small gym

2) traditional band (a lot of brass organs and drums) playing on a very small room

3) illegal betting bras de fer match with a lot of extras on a basement.

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3 minutes ago, Kisaha said:

but I had 3 occasions this year when using other mics (production companies equipment)

What mics were they? Certainly there exist mics with even worse SPL. 

And count this up to another reason to not use production supplied equipment!

Perhaps I should have used the additional disclaimers of: "....or if using cheap gear" and "....or if doing music recordings"

3 minutes ago, Kisaha said:

2) traditional band (a lot of brass organs and drums) playing on a very small room

Oh yes, music productions can get to unhealthy loud levels!

But I'd worry more first about your own hearing before the mic you're using....

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2 minutes ago, IronFilm said:

Mics definitely do have self noise, my Sennheiser MKH60 for instance is much cleaner than my AKG Blueline HC

When I say microphone, I mean the transducer component, not the entire appliance.  The problem is that I've designed and built audio equipment, so I find the way that other people talk about it to be vague and imprecise.

Any mic that doesn't require phantom power wouldn't have self-noise because it's essentially glad wrap, two magnets and some coiled wire in a tube :)

 

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1 hour ago, IronFilm said:

Ha! Well ok then. 

But in normal conventional speech everyone refers to "a mic" as being everything which is getting connected at the other end of the XLR cable. 

If only we were having a normal conventional conversation :)

Was my math correct?

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1 hour ago, kye said:

Any mic that doesn't require phantom power wouldn't have self-noise because it's essentially glad wrap, two magnets and some coiled wire in a tube :)

That's not correct. The wrapped wire is a resistive element and because of thermal motion of atoms in the voice coil, a voltage is generated across it. This is called thermal noise.

The higher the impedance of a dynamic mic the higher the thermal noise. Even though the thermal noise of dynamic mics is very small, but because these mics need a high amount of amplification (which also amplifies the thermal noise), a dynamic mic can end up having a weaker signal to noise ratio than a condenser mic.

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1 hour ago, Julian Krause said:

That's not correct. The wrapped wire is a resistive element and because of thermal motion of atoms in the voice coil, a voltage is generated across it. This is called thermal noise.

The higher the impedance of a dynamic mic the higher the thermal noise. Even though the thermal noise of dynamic mics is very small, but because these mics need a high amount of amplification (which also amplifies the thermal noise), a dynamic mic can end up having a weaker signal to noise ratio than a condenser mic.

Fair enough.

Doesn't this just add to the number of sources of noise floor going into the F6? :)

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Yes, and if the F6 is designed properly, the noise of the microphone (regardless if dynamic or condenser) should be higher than the intrinsic noise of the F6. This way your noise performance is limited by the mic itself and not the F6. This is the whole goal of the F6. It should provide a huge dynamic range, so that it captures the whole dynamic range of the mic.

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15 hours ago, Julian Krause said:

Yes, and if the F6 is designed properly, the noise of the microphone (regardless if dynamic or condenser) should be higher than the intrinsic noise of the F6. This way your noise performance is limited by the mic itself and not the F6. This is the whole goal of the F6. It should provide a huge dynamic range, so that it captures the whole dynamic range of the mic.

That makes total sense.  

I guess I assumed that people shot in much higher DR situations than you and @IronFilm are indicating.  If this was the case then you'd have to change mics between scenarios, but apparently that means you're doing specialist work and somehow that means the 'you never have to adjust levels' claim doesn't apply.  

Industries have such strange arbitrary lines in the sand, it's difficult for outsiders to know that DR below a certain level is normal and above that is completely beyond a normal discussion, even if that discussion is about a piece of equipment that specifically revolutionises the very thing that bounds what is a normal conversation.

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52 minutes ago, kye said:

I guess I assumed that people shot in much higher DR situations than you and @IronFilm are indicating.  If this was the case then you'd have to change mics between scenarios, but apparently that means you're doing specialist work and somehow that means the 'you never have to adjust levels' claim doesn't apply.  

As a guy who records dialogue for film/tv/video/web/etc , then I certainly might often switch mics, but I can honestly say that considering that the source might be "too loud" has never been a reason I've considered recently. 

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